Viral Case Study: How the Webby-nominated Video “Child of the ‘90s” for IE Reached 28 Million Views

In January of this year, Microsoft released the video we created with them titled “Child of the 90s” for Internet Explorer.

We were happy to see it go live—and to see what happened next. Within five days of release, the spot racked up more than 7 million views and we were fortunate enough to be awarded the top prize in the film category for the Ads of the World January 2013. Since then, it has earned more than 28 million views—and now it’s nominated for a Webby. (We’d very much appreciate a vote for the video).

In honor of the nomination, we’ve offered up a behind-the-scenes look at the strategy, approach and collaboration with Microsoft on this successful project.

The Strategy

We attribute the video’s success to the three-pillar content strategy framework we use at our agency, Column Five:

  1. Distribution: Get content noticed by your audience
  2. Creative: Make content great for your audience
  3. Engagement: Make content impactful for your brand


How We Put It Into Practice

We start with distribution strategy, because any creative ultimately needs to be tailored to our audience. To determine our distribution strategy for online video, we ask two questions, both of which we usually want a definitive “yes” answer to:

  1. Is the content newsworthy? (We consider “newsworthy” content to be either informative,  entertaining, or both).
  2. Is the content shareworthy for our audience? (Content is considered “shareworthy” if it will be regularly re-distributed by viewers to their friends and followers)

Many people believe “newsworthy” and “shareworthy” are interchangeable, but there is a difference. This video was a success because it spanned both of these spheres.


Why It Worked

To ensure the video was both newsworthy and shareworthy, our creative team worked closely with our strategic communications team in developing the concept with Internet Explorer. This coordination yielded an important insight early on: no brand had truly capitalized on ‘90s nostalgia yet. Who better to do it than Internet Explorer?

A brand like Internet Explorer being forward-thinking enough to make such a story-focused, Gen-Y-centered commercial was pretty newsworthy. Focusing that story on ‘90s nostalgia, which we knew was popular with Gen-Y and not yet fully realized in video form, is what made it shareworthy.


How It Helped the Brand

If all we cared about was getting content noticed, we would film cats roaming around the office all day and slap a logo at the end of the video. But this wouldn’t help Microsoft—and our goal is to be impactful for the brand. With Internet Explorer, we wanted to change how Gen-Y felt about the browser. We wanted the video to be a walk down memory lane, to feel conversational and familiar. We wanted the audience to think, “Maybe Internet Explorer can relate to me better than I thought; the new browser could exceed my expectations.”

We certainly wanted to drive viewers to the site to rediscover Internet Explorer. But even if they didn’t, by sharing the video, they were sharing the story—a story inextricably connected to Internet Explorer, a story that might not lead everyone to switch browsers that day, but that would stay and grow in a generation’s mind. That story has been told over 27 millions times to date, and that’s the impact we wanted more than anything: a reframing of IE’s relationship with Gen-Y.


Sunish Sebastian
Very interesting video and the analysis! I remember knowing only one browser IE and haven't used it in a long time :) My vote for your video.
Jose A F Carrilho
This example is also valid for those who write blogs. One needs to make sure that an article is not only a quality one, but it's also relevant to readers.
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